Los Angeles Times Examines ‘Creative’ Ways Hospitals Deal with Nursing Shortage
The Los Angeles Times on Sunday examined the "creative ways" in which hospitals are addressing the "high turnover and shortage of qualified nurses." Facilities are paying signing bonuses, "raiding one another's staffs" and helping nurses repay their student loans in exchange for a commitment of "as little as three months of work," the Times reports. In addition, hospitals are funding training programs, nursing school faculty, scholarships and "more convenient" continuing education programs. The Times reports some providers are making better use of technology -- such as computerized order entry systems and mobile records -- and redesigning hospital wards to "change the way nurses work." Kaiser Permanente, for example, has moved beds at one Los Angeles-area hospital closer to nurses' stations to "minimize walking and reduce fatigue." And Sutter Health, the largest hospital network in Northern California, has created RN Agenda, a program designed to improve nurses' satisfaction through enhanced compensation and improved career opportunities.
Some veteran nurses say that hospitals are using the "wrong" tactics to solve the shortage problem, the Times reports. They contend, for example, that hospitals "are wasting millions of dollars annually paying inflated salaries to temporary nurses while members of the hard-working rank and file struggle along." According to an American Hospital Association survey, more than 50% of U.S. hospitals employ temporary agency or traveling nurses, and some 75% of those hospitals pay temporary nurses 20% more than they pay regular staff nurses. Staff nurses also cite mandatory overtime, wages that do not reflect the cost of living and shift work in wards "for which they are not trained" as reasons for the shortage. Despite hospital efforts, Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, said, "Millions of taxpayer health dollars are wasted on vacuous retention schemes that really go nowhere. What they are doing now is putting beautiful paint on a rusted-out car" (White, Los Angeles Times, 4/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.